The Healing Powers of Salt and Water – and Sitting Still
The holiday season is here and, if you’re like most people, you’ll probably come out the other side completely frazzled. Between gift shopping (or making!), driving all over the province to visit family, late-night holiday parties, and the kids being home from school, you’re probably going to be due for some self-care by the end of the year.
So this is the perfect time to check out The Rock Spa. Operating in Kitchener for three years now, The Rock Spa offers, among other things, two pretty unique (though increasingly popular) relaxation opportunities: a floatation tank, and a salt cave.
You might know floatation tanks by their former name: sensory deprivation chambers, but the practice is far less intimidating as that suggests (hence the name change). The Rock Spa’s floatation chamber (or “float pod,” as they’re also called) is essentially a large, friendly-looking bathtub with a lid, but the concept is still a little daunting for many people. Lucky for you, I tried it out, so you’ll know what to expect.
What it’s good for
People use floatation therapy for relief from stress, physical tension, and mild to chronic pain, and as an ideal environment for meditation. I get regular massages not just because I carry so much tension in my shoulders, but because it forces me to just sit still and not do anything for a while, with no distractions. Well, floating takes that to a whole other level.
How it works
The basic idea is that you float in super-saturated salt water for an hour or more (The Rock Spa offers 60- and 90-minute sessions). The water is heated to skin temperature, so you can’t feel it once you stop moving.
The 1000 pounds or so of dissolved Epsom salts, in addition to being great for your body, make the 11 inches of water denser than usual – which makes you float more than usual, creating a strange but enjoyable anti-gravity sensation. Once you turn off the lights and close the lid (both optional), the world disappears and you get to just…be.
After about 30-45 minutes of floating, your brainwaves shift to theta waves, a state “between waking and sleeping,” according to the pamphlet I was given. Basically, you’re really relaxed.
Things you’re probably wondering about
- The water is clean: the high salinity keeps it clean, and it's filtered well between each session.
- Earplugs are provided to keep water (and salt) out of your ears.
- Yes, it takes some getting used to. I spent a good portion of my 60-minute session just getting comfortable and fiddling with the light (it changes colour!) and music, before working my way up to turning them both off and really letting myself relax.
- While The Rock Spa advocates use of floatation therapy for pregnant women, they also recommend talking to your healthcare practitioner first, especially during the first trimester.
- It’s okay if you fall asleep: The water is so buoyant you’ll just keep floating. Pleasant music and the light inside the tank will wake you up when you’re done.
- A 60-minute session costs $88.50, which is on par with a good massage.
Check out the guidelines and FAQ for restrictions and other considerations.
Things you probably didn’t think to wonder about
- They provide a pool noodle because people often prefer more neck support the first time – I definitely did! It also kept me from moving around too much. Without it, I kept drifting to the side of the tank, but with it, it hit the side first and kept me in place.
- If you have minor cuts or scrapes, you’ll want to cover them a non-water-based ointment or balm (vaseline was provided, but I would have preferred a healthier option). Despite the vaseline, eczema on my hand was irritated by the salt, which was distracting. I ended up resting my hand on my stomach or on the pool noodle most of the time, to keep it out of the water.
- The explanatory video I watched before my session mentioned there would be a small towel inside the pod to dry my hands if needed, but that was missing. You may want to bring one in case that's not provided, as it definitely would have come in handy.
- You’ll be showering before and after, so bring anything you’ll need during or after a shower (your own shampoo, leave-in conditioner, lotion, makeup, etc).
I found floating to be an enjoyable experience, once I got used to it. It helped me to fit in some "me time" and I felt quite physically relaxed and refreshed afterwards. If you have trouble blocking out time to relax by yourself or finding a comfortable, distraction-free space in which to do so, I'd definitely recommend it. And at the very least, it's a neat experience that I think is worth trying!
Bonus: The salt cave
The Rock Spa also has a "salt cave” – a room full of salt crystals and salt-laden air, in which you basically sit and breathe. Suitable for all ages (starting at 6 months), halotherapy (from the Greek word for salt) is predominantly used to treat breathing issues – colds, coughs, sinusitis, asthma – as well as skin conditions. It’s also helpful for stress, anxiety and depression. People generally read, meditate, or even sleep in the salt cave, and blankets are provided.
Treatments to try (or buy for a loved one!)
- Get a three-pack of float treatments for $177. One session will bring relaxation (as I can attest), but they recommend at least three for maximum benefit so that you can really get the hang of it.
- Book the salt cave for a 45-minute private session with friends or family.
Full disclosure: We received a free floatation session at The Rock Spa so that we could tell you all about it.
Laura McDonald is The Holistic Parent’s former web editor, a freelance editor and content strategist, and former Managing Editor at Alternatives Journal.